It is transformation Tuesday, and this month I am super excited to introduce to you Erin, who will talk about how she took charge of her own health and happiness.
Enjoy and get inspired
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a 25 year old graduate student learning to find a balance between science experiments, getting my PhD, eating delicious foods and working out! My two favorite activities are rock climbing and running! They both do two separate but necessary things for me. Running gives me the time to zone out and think about things: organize my day mentally, set goals for my week and work on solving problems I’ve encountered recently. Rock climbing is similar but completely different: instead of thinking about my problems I work on the bouldering problems on the wall and completely forget about mine! So much fun! 🙂
What made you rethink your lifestyle?
I realized I needed a change in my life about 3 years ago when I came to graduate school. As a chemistry major in undergrad I would focus so hard on my school work. I worked so hard to get the A’s that I would rarely exercise and would stress eat at all the deliciously bad places, yes diners have great options, but they also have potato skins and cheese covered fries that I fell victim to weekly! When I moved out to California for school, I realized how unhealthy my undergrad life had become ( I had gained a total of 25lbs since my cross country days in highschool!) . I stopped treating myself well and I could feel it. My energy was low, I wasn’t fitting into my clothes anymore and I knew I wasn’t as happy as I could be. I didn’t know how to cook, like at all, and I didn’t know where to start with eating what my body needed
What changes did you make?
When I moved out to California and away from my undergraduate lifestyle back in New York I first cut out the significant amount of alcohol that is often associated with an undergraduate lifestyle. I then started to cut out processed foods and tried to get creative in the kitchen however, I had never really cooked on my own before moving out to California. I was unsure what foods to eat and how to get the proper nutrients needed. After seeing the success some of my friends had with Tone it Up, I decided to give their meal plans a try. The meals were easy to make and so tasty! The recipes consisted of lean proteins, greens and this new foreign grain “quinoa”! haha. I also started introducing regular exercise into my routine and signed up for a half marathon to light the fire under my tush so I had to be accountable with training!
Have you tried diets before? What were the results?
Honestly, before tone it up I hadn’t consistently tried any diets. In high school my parents made well balanced meals and I ran cross country so I didn’t have any issues with my weight until I left home and was on my own. In college, I rarely exercised and I ate out so often with poor choices. My current “diet” is more of a lifestyle than it is a diet. What I eat and how to balance it all became a natural habit, but at first it felt everything but natural- I had to work hard at it!
Every new beginning is difficult - how did you stay motivated?
I stayed motivated by creating a fitness Instagram and by talking about my routine with my friends and family a lot. I felt that the more people I told about it, the more I would hold myself accountable! It’s also really important to stay positive about how you approach yourself and your journey to a balanced life. The harder you are on yourself, or the more you tell yourself, “ I don’t think I can do this”, the harder it will be! So I stayed positive and it really kept me motivated!
How did you go about setting goals for yourself?
The first step to setting goals for myself was to get a journal/calendar. I like calendars that have notes pages in the back so you can consolidate all into one. In the note section I would write out a few goals I had: Big picture goals: where I want to see myself in a year or two, and smaller goals: day to day goals like drink 80 Oz of water a day ( if you’re still reading- chug water now! ha)
How long did it take you until this change became a lifestyle, a normal part of your everyday life?
I would say it took about 3 months of me working hard at it before it became a normal part of my everyday life. Honestly though, I’m still working on it everyday! It’s not something you can just let go
Did you have any setbacks, and how did you overcome them?
Definitely! Surprisingly for me it wasn’t over eating or treats during the holidays but everything right before leading up to them! It’s such a busy time of the year- prepping for the holidays, traveling to see family etc. I lost track of my workouts and my eating fell off track. As soon as I realized it, and now I anticipate it. I sit myself down with my planner and plan out my meals and workouts for one week (start small). Tell myself I can stick to this for a week- and it usually ends up correcting and setting me back into my routine! Also buddying up and keeping myself accountable always gets me out of my set backs!
What does your typical day look like in terms of nutrition choices and workouts?
I usually work out twice a day- not because I’m crazy (well I guess that’s up for interpretation) but usually I like to split it up so I’m not at the gym for an extended period of time! Unlike many people, I really love cardio- running and spinning are my favorite forms of cardio. I’ll try to fit in one of those activities as well as a short toning routine (tone it up daily moves or a workout video). I love doing short toning routines because I can fit them in while I’m at home cooking or even out at the rock gym. Typically, I’ll do an early morning session (6 or 7 am) at the gym I go to (Mad Fitness) and save toning moves either after my class or later at home!
As for nutrition, I eat about 5/6 smaller meals throughout the day. I usually eat my breakfast after my morning workout. If I am at home for my morning workout I have coffee beforehand but won’t eat until after I workout. For breakfast I typically have a protein smoothie, protein waffle or an omelet with Ezekiel toast. My morning snack is usually yogurt or a protein muffin. For my lunch I either have a kale salad with chicken and a piece of fruit OR leftovers from dinner the night before. My afternoon snack is either a protein bar or carrots and hummus. Finally, my dinner is lean, clean and green! Usually consisting of some sort of protein (chicken or ground turkey) and veggies. In the summer its more commonly chicken and veggies with quinoa while in the fall and winter I really enjoy making chili and soups!
How do you stay healthy on the go or when you travel?
Traveling and staying healthy is tough!! If possible, I try and pack myself as many of my own snacks that I can. For one- everything is so expensive when you travel, and Two- they usually don’t have the things you want to be eating at a gas station! When I’ve actually reached my destination (that’s not my home) I look for options that are close to things I would normally eat and then saving one or two of my meals for something that’s different or may be a little out of the norm for me ( a treat or sometimes just something different!). I also make sure that I stay active! If I can’t fit in an actual workout because I’m busy with friends/ family I try and suggest that we go on a walk/hike. I make sure I get my body moving each day even if I’m on vacation- I have so much more energy when I do so!
A lot of people are concerned that such a change will affect their social lifestyle. Did this change affect your social lifestyle?
Since I got up and moved to California all at the same time, my social lifestyle definitely changed a lot. I think if I were still back home I would be going out with friends to restaurants and bars, which makes it more difficult for a healthy lifestyle. Overall, I think having a healthy regimen will affect your social life. For example, I bring my own meals for lunch etc I often don’t go out to lunch with the people I work with. If possible, I’ll bring my lunch out with us and then sometimes I’ll save my lunch for another day to make sure I get the occasional hangout with my colleagues. On an amazing note, my social gatherings often include some sort of fitness activity and/or some deliciously healthy eats!
How has your life, health and overall wellbeing changed throughout this process?
My life has changed dramatically! Overall, I am more organized. Leading a healthy lifestyle on a budget requires planning – what to buy at the grocery store each week and what meals need to be prepared to bring into work every day etc, all of this requires planning. The amazing thing that I found was that even just 5-10 minutes of planning on Sunday at each week saves me boat loads of time throughout the week!
After changing my lifestyle to include more exercise and better foods, I found that I had so much more energy. It’s truly amazing that when you drink enough water and refuel your body with proper nutrients how amazing you feel. A side from the 25lbs I lost from when I graduated from college, my skin cleared up and I think I became even happier- endorphins are amazing!
Do you ever allow yourself unhealthy food? Do you feel guilty? How do you deal with it?
Of course! I allow myself unhealthy foods in moderation and I don’t feel guilty about it! I simply take note (no mindless eating!) and make sure I keep on my workout regimen. Usually on vacation I allow myself to fully enjoy myself- desserts, wine etc. and then when I return I make sure to balance that out by eating clean and fitting in my workouts regularly! Also, if you are out with friends - enjoy yourself! However, remember to keep note and do not create a habit out of it and you will be just fine!
What can we always find in your fridge?
Greek yogurt ( I eat this with berries, quinoa crisps, and even use it as a mayo and sour cream replacement!), Almond milk, lean proteins (ground turkey and chicken), Almond butter, tons of fruits and veggies, Ezekiel bread, eggs & egg whites, and of course containers of pre-made meals from a Sunday Meal Prep session.
What did you learn about you throughout this lifestyle change?
I learned that our bodies are amazing powerhouses. You can see significant changes in the strength, endurance and shape of your body just over a couple of days! I also did not know that I would ever be cooking like I do now! I knew nearly nothing about cooking before I started on this journey, now I can make a pretty delicious meal without glancing at a recipe!
What kind of advise can you give to anyone looking to change their lifestyle to a healthier one?
Don’t overwhelm yourself with how many aspects of your life you’d like/ think you need to change before you are “healthy”. Start small, dip your toes into a healthier option- I think you’ll find you’ll love it and feel so great after!